Points Awarded To Students Who Selected Alternate Answer On Grade 10 MCAS Exam- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, December 4, 2002
Contact:Heidi B. Perlman 781-338-3106

Points Awarded To Students Who Selected Alternate Answer On Grade 10 MCAS Exam

MALDEN - An additional 449 students in the classes of 2003 and 2004 have earned a competency determination, thanks to the ingenuity of a Whitman-Hanson Regional High School student who found a unique method of answering a math question on the 10th grade exam, education officials announced on Wednesday.

Because of this finding, a second answer on the question is now counted as correct. As a result, an additional 136 students in the class of 2003 and 421 students in the class of 2004 have now passed the math exam, and will not have to take the MCAS math retest being given next week.

“Although the answer we had marked as the right one is correct, it’s clear now that what this student found is also right, and I think that’s terrific,” said Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll. “This girl was able to take a typical math question and come up with a completely unique method of solving it that even our math experts, teachers in the field and our test reviewers never considered. This is a great example of just how creative our students can be, and I applaud her efforts.”

The question presented a real-world application of the binary, or base two, number system, such as the one used by computers. The numbers zero through 10 were shown as a sequence of on and off switches in four-switch panels. Students were asked to identify the panel that would represent number 11, the next in the sequence. The correct answer could be found either by knowing the binary system, or by recognizing changes in place value throughout the series.

However, when the student looked at the panels, she saw something different: a spatial sequence in the on and off switches, rather than the numeric pattern envisioned by the developers and reviewers of the item. After conferring with mathematicians, education officials this week determined that the student’s answer is also a viable second solution to the question.

The additional points pushed 95 students in the class of 2003 and 354 students from the class of 2004 who had passed the English but not the math exam up over the passing margin, earning them each the competency determination needed to get their high school diploma. This does not significantly alter the percentage who have earned a competency determination in either class.

Next week’s retest will be the third retest offered to students in this class, and the first for students in the class of 2004.

For more information on the MCAS exam, look online at www.doe.mass.edu/mcas.

Last Updated: December 4, 2002

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